The following interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos was recently published in Σφήνα and addresses the most pressing issues the Church of Greece is currently dealing with:
What is your opinion regarding the abolition of religion classes in the schools as well as the abolition of morning prayers?
Neither lessons in religion or prayer should be abolished by the schools.
This is not only because the Constitution and the existing laws forbid this, which clearly state that education "has as its purpose the ethical, spiritual, professional and physical nurturing of the Greek people, the development of the national and religious conscience, and their formation in free and responsible citizens" (Article 16), but also because if the responsible State doesn't care for the "religious sentiments" which exist in children, then they will be exploited by others, with the result that "destructive cults" of various sects will filter in with unpredictable results. For this reason the responsible State must view this issue seriously.
What is your opinion on the abolition of oaths? Are we heading towards a nation of atheism or multiculturalism?
Christ advised categorically: "Do not swear" (Matt. 5:34). Christians should not take oaths and violate the command of Christ, nor should they pressure others to do so.
There are many ways to establish honesty, seriousness, and sincerity. These may be helped by faith in God.
To the question about "heading towards a nation of atheism or multiculturalism", I am inclined towards the latter, even though they don't correlate with my alternative questions, which end up most of the time being pseudo-dilemmas.
Every nation has its own particular cultural lifestyle and the relationship of every nation with its religious communities is measured analogous to the tradition of the land, as it is foreseen in the Treaty of Lisbon.
Are you in favor of the Greek citizenship to immigrants?
The Standing Holy Synod has decided on the issue, that it is the responsibility of the State, but it should take the necessary measures and establish the appropriate conditions in compliance with European legislation in trying to avoid distorting the social and cultural cohesion. The State must civilize the people and the Church must make them its members.
How, in your opinion, can the problem of illegal immigration be solved?
I do not have a particular opinion on this issue. We must give priority to the experts. What I know is that the State should move in between the general principles of maintaining social cohesion and the sensitivity to human suffering.
This is a balancing act. From the news I notice that in the end the illegal immigrants are victims of unscrupulous individuals, thus they are suffering beings.
What is your opinion on the separation of Church and State?
The phrase "separation of Church and State" doesn't express me in any way, because no organization and no person can live separated from the State or to live as a state within a State.
That which is characterized as separation already exists, since why else is there the work of the State and on the other hand the work of the Church. Although there are some points of friction, they can be completely settled calmly and in a serious manner.
So we should not talk about separation of Church and State, but correct relations between ecclesiastical and civil administration for the good of the citizen and society.
Do you believe there is a return from Interfaith Dialogue? And what is happening today?
There were and are many interfaith dialogues, but the only good that comes out of them is that there is an understanding between religious leaders and this could possibly improve on some points that cause friction.
But I think that Interfaith Dialogue can not be part of a political objective, because in this case religion would play political games, nor should we secularize the Orthodox faith and reach a syncretism which is the aim of the 'new age', where everything is gathered and mashed together.
Can the environment be saved and how?
The Orthodox Church believes that the environment went wild because of the sin of the First-Created and it is "violated" by the greediness of people, and its restoration is achieved by the restoration of man to his previous glory.
I believe the Saints can change the environment, as their lives show, since the Saints were reconciled with the environment.
I do not have the hope that politicians and the United Nations will improve this, as the biggest polluters are the most powerful and richest countries which have large interests, as was evident recently in Copenhagen.
These days there is a lot of talk about the "appeal". What is your opinion?
The "appeal", namely the appeal of recourse to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is one of the main canonical rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which the Church of Greece has commitments to comply with. Generally we should fully respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Parallel to all the issues there is the canonical principle of "oikonomia", namely leniency.
The canons provide for both akriveia (exactness) and oikonomia (leniency). The Church mostly applies oikonomia, instead of akriveia, since the bishops according to the Apostle Peter are to be "good economists of God's varied grace" ("καλοί οικονόμοι ποικίλης χάριτος Θεού") and according to Basil the Great are "the economists of the churches of God" (οι οικονομούντες τάς Εκκλησίας του Θεού).
We believe that God also will judge us according to His mercy and His love for mankind.
Source. Translated by John Sanidopoulos